Best Armour in Historical Warfare?

Poly

Ad Honorem
Apr 2011
6,698
Georgia, USA
With the minor quibble that much of that armor developed *after* the introduction of gunpowder! Just nitpicking--I understand what you mean.

SOMEone should make a case for MAIL, though! A nearly impenetrable metal skin with unlimited mobility and ventillation, that can be put on in a matter of moments. Even modern materials can't match that. It's the only type of armor that has been in continuous use since 300 BC--still used for butchers' gloves and anti-shark suits.


Matthew
Chain mail was good - if it wasn't then it wouldn't have been used for all those hundreds of years

It protected against cut but not so much against thrusts and missiles like arrows

Superior plate armor developed in the late middle ages and was proof against arrows - the French knights at Agincourt 1415 were much better protected than those at Crecy in 1345....gunpowder was used at Crecy but it can hardly be regarded as part of the gunpowder age
 

Tairusiano

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,976
Brazil
I dont know if here is the right place to ask but, I see that we have a good groups of armor nerds here:lol:, I want to ask about Aztec cotton armor do you know how it was made and what was its efficiency.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,984
MD, USA
Chain mail was good - if it wasn't then it wouldn't have been used for all those hundreds of years

It protected against cut but not so much against thrusts and missiles like arrows
Actually, the best tests have shown mail to be very resistant to arrows and thrusting weapons. And frankly I've always thought the issue of blunt force trauma to be overemphasized. As you say, mail wouldn't have been so popular all through the era in which spears and arrows were the most common weapons if it hadn't been effective!

gunpowder was used at Crecy but it can hardly be regarded as part of the gunpowder age
I know, it was just a dig! ;) And I actually agree that it's hard to beat 15th century high-quality plate armor for overall effectiveness. And looks? Give me Gothic.

Hmm, though I also think my bronze muscled cuirass and Corinthian helmet are pretty spiffy, too!

Matthew
 

Thegn Ansgar

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
5,637
Canada
Blunt force trauma is only really a serious thing concerning the head. Other parts of the body can be affected by it, but it's not truly a serious issue unless you have internal bruising or ruptures due to it, and that's not a given. Even in that kind of situation, the human body is quite resilient.

For the most part though, people use blunt force trauma to refer to things like broken bones and external bruising. Things that ancient and medieval "doctors" knew how to treat quite competently.

Having a broken bone is much more preferable to having any sort of laceration in a situation like that. Especially when you know that the people who you'll pay to treat you, know how to fix that issue really easily. Of course, not being wounded at all is the best course of action, but the only way you're going to guarantee such a thing is to not fight at all.
 
Mar 2013
3,909
Texas, USA
Blunt force trauma is only really a serious thing concerning the head. Other parts of the body can be affected by it, but it's not truly a serious issue unless you have internal bruising or ruptures due to it, and that's not a given. Even in that kind of situation, the human body is quite resilient.

For the most part though, people use blunt force trauma to refer to things like broken bones and external bruising. Things that ancient and medieval "doctors" knew how to treat quite competently.

Having a broken bone is much more preferable to having any sort of laceration in a situation like that. Especially when you know that the people who you'll pay to treat you, know how to fix that issue really easily. Of course, not being wounded at all is the best course of action, but the only way you're going to guarantee such a thing is to not fight at all.
Armor doesn't just prevent deadly wounds, that are capable of being medically treated after a battle, but to prevent being wounded altogether. A soldier fighting in the front lines that gets wounded is more likely to be killed, unless his mates pull him back immediately and then remove him from the area. Additionally, during routs after a battle lost, the wounded who cannot escape at full speed are usually part of those massacred.

So it pays to have armor that would prevent an easy broken bone.
 
Jul 2010
383
Perfidious Albion
Incidentally, I tried Googling "barkcloth armour" and came up with a picture of this stylish piece of wargear:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mharrsch/1444696990/in/set-72157626417589719

According to the caption, it was capable of stopping low-velocity musket bullets.

I'm still not sure where this idee fixe of metal being lighter than all the alternatives comes from. There've been several sources quoted on this thread saying that paper (or barkcloth, if you prefer) armour was lighter than metal, all of them from people who were in a good position to know.
 

Thegn Ansgar

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
5,637
Canada
Armor doesn't just prevent deadly wounds, that are capable of being medically treated after a battle, but to prevent being wounded altogether. A soldier fighting in the front lines that gets wounded is more likely to be killed, unless his mates pull him back immediately and then remove him from the area. Additionally, during routs after a battle lost, the wounded who cannot escape at full speed are usually part of those massacred.

So it pays to have armor that would prevent an easy broken bone.
Except even with plate broken bones are going to be common. You are not stopping broken bones in a fight with hand weapons, neither ones broken from the strike of a weapon, or caused bio-mechanically. Even with the thicker than historical plate armour that people fight with in today, broken bones are not an uncommon thing.

And bio-mechanically, the only way bones can be prevented from being broken is if it stops the body from moving further than it is able to. Having armour like that would be useless since you cannot get your full range of motion from it.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,984
MD, USA
So it pays to have armor that would prevent an easy broken bone.
But how *easy* is it to break a bone? Especially in a combat situation, with the target moving unpredictably, using a shield, etc. My point is that it takes FAR less energy with any bladed weapon to lay flesh wide open than it does to break a bone. So you can kill any number of opponents without ever using bone-breaking force.

Any armor that stops that sharp blade from contacting skin automatically means that you either have to go around it, or start striking with a LOT more force. That means exhausting yourself much more quickly, as well as possibly telegraphing your moves and exposing yourself more.

Hence, mail was fine through the eras in which most combatants did not have any armor. What we might consider to be pretty wimpy blows were perfectly adequate against those unarmored opponents. And mail was excellent protection against those wimpy blows, and more. It wasn't *perfect*, but it didn't have to be, and wasn't meant to be.

Matthew
 
Mar 2013
3,909
Texas, USA
But how *easy* is it to break a bone? Especially in a combat situation, with the target moving unpredictably, using a shield, etc. My point is that it takes FAR less energy with any bladed weapon to lay flesh wide open than it does to break a bone. So you can kill any number of opponents without ever using bone-breaking force.

Any armor that stops that sharp blade from contacting skin automatically means that you either have to go around it, or start striking with a LOT more force. That means exhausting yourself much more quickly, as well as possibly telegraphing your moves and exposing yourself more.

Hence, mail was fine through the eras in which most combatants did not have any armor. What we might consider to be pretty wimpy blows were perfectly adequate against those unarmored opponents. And mail was excellent protection against those wimpy blows, and more. It wasn't *perfect*, but it didn't have to be, and wasn't meant to be.

Matthew
Certain bones are more susceptible than others. For instance, collar bones break relatively easy, which could explain the additional shoulder doubling commonly worn, even with mail (as well as style).

The skull too is relatively easy to damage, which is why helmets are popular.

Elbows are easy to disable, knees, and ribs too to some level. The bones of the hands and feet as well. Most of these, minus the ribs, weren't actually protected by armor in most of history, with the shield being responsible for protecting these.

I'd definitely agree with the usefulness of mail. It was better than most armors in protectiveness, it was more flexible, easier to maintain, quicker to don, and didn't require fitting. With some cloth padding underneath it was especially resistant to most blows and missile weapons.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,880
Australia
I dont know if here is the right place to ask but, I see that we have a good groups of armor nerds here:lol:, I want to ask about Aztec cotton armor do you know how it was made and what was its efficiency.
It is made in exactly the same manner as all of the other textile armours in the world. You take multiple layers of cloth, or two layers stuffed like a cushion, and quilt them through to compress them. The end result is significantly thicker and heavier than metal armour but it affords good protection.

"The armor which they use in war are certain loose garments like doublets made of quilted cotton, a finger and a half thick, and sometimes two fingers; they are very strong. Over them they wear a doublet and hose all one garment, which are corded behind. This garment is made of thick cloth and is covered with a layer of feathers of different colors, making a fine effect… for neither arrows nor darts pierce them, but are thrown back without making any wound, and even with swords it is difficult to penetrate through them."
-- Companion of Hernan Cortez

"Out of sacking or light linen cloths they make a kind of surcoat that they call escaupil. These fall below the knee, and sometimes to the calf. They are all stuffed with cotton, to the thickness of three fingers. The layers of cotton are quilted between folds of linen and sewed with rough thread…"
-- Aguado, History of Venezuela
 
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